The interface between parents and child protection agencies has long been a cause of concern. This paper examines the challenge that the child protection system faces from the perspective of responsive regulation theory (Braithwaite, 2002). The analysis suggests that management of compliance, though rarely discussed in the literature, has a significant impact on investigations. An emphasis on assessment, especially formal risk assessment, places an emphasis on a particular type of compliance: 'assessment compliance'. Research on the experiences of parents suggests that overemphasis on assessment compliance has a number of disadvantages: it risks alienating families, it focuses attention on a questionable indicator of parents willingness to make changes, increases the degree of coercion used in interventions and disempowers families and their communities. It is argued that formalistic use of assessment undermines the effectiveness of investigations because managing compliance within assessment procedures comes to dominate the response of workers. More families could be successfully engaged if the principles of responsive regulation were applied to assessment within investigation processes. A family engagement pyramid, based on responsive regulation theory, is proposed as one way of achieving this.